Oregon Conference Responds to Devastating Wildfires

-The headquarters of the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has been turned into an evacuation center for wildfires

-Reports indicate that all conference properties have survived the fires

-Many still await to know whether their homes survive


Across the West Coast of the United States, dozens of wildfires, spurred by punishing winds and historically dry conditions, have devastated communities over the past week. For the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, church leaders and members have worked to serve their communities while often under the threat of fire themselves.

As of Sunday, fires have burned more than a million acres in Oregon and killed at least 10 people, officials said. The Oregon Conference has turned its headquarters, located in the Portland suburb of Gladstone, into an evacuation site available to the thousands of people displaced in the area.

The week began with high winds across the region that toppled trees and powerlines, igniting new blazes and fanning to life ones already smoldering. In Northwestern Oregon, the winds reversed their customary direction and blew from the east, pushing fires toward the higher populated areas of the Willamette Valley. It was a recipe for disaster.

Mel Hickman is a member of the Gladstone Park Seventh-day Adventist Church, and just a few weeks ago he moved with his fifth-wheel to a property out in the direction of the mountains. On Wednesday afternoon he took a nap and awoke to a dark sky.

“I though man, have I slept for 12 hours?” he said. “I walked outside. You know the old movies of people on Mars, where just everything is red? It was like that. Everything was red.”

On Thursday, ash began to fall and Hickman could hear the concussion of trees exploding from the fire. Officials soon gave the order to get out immediately, and he brought his trailer to the Gladstone campus. 

The conference headquarters spans 80 acres and is equipped with 569 RV sites, normally used for the annual camp meeting that draws in thousands of attendees. The rest of the year the camp sites sit vacant. As the fires exploded in size, it became clear that all that camping space could be put to vital use.


Chuck Burkeen is the ministerial director of the Oregon Conference; he and his wife live in Estacada, one of the small towns east of Gladstone. On Tuesday, noting with alarm that the fires were approaching, they packed and headed to the conference office—even though there was not yet a mandatory evacuation.

“We were actually the first ones, I think, that were here,” Burkeen said on Saturday, standing in front of his tent trailer.

As the scale of the unfolding disaster became clear, Portland Adventist Community Services (PACS)—a local charitable organization—and the Red Cross began talking with the Oregon Conference about opening the headquarters property to the public. Plans rapidly went into motion and the site was added to the handful of locations advertised by the local government to residents. By Wednesday morning there were a few more RVs, Burkeen remembered, and then many more kept arriving throughout the day.

“That’s when we started calling for volunteers,” he said. Church members, pastors, conference employees, and other members of the public signed up for shifts and came to help manage the growing encampment.

On Thursday, one of the other county evacuation sites, located just four miles from Gladstone, closed due to the advancing fire, sending more trailers and RVs their way.

Volunteers help distribute food and supplies. Upwards of 100 trailers and RVs are on the property.

Although the Red Cross had hoped to help manage the site, with the demand on resources statewide it soon became clear that the conference would have to do much of the heavy lifting.

“We realized that we’re not going to have their help, so we’re going to have to do it,” Burkeen said. “And I think it’s worked out really well.”

From above, the hazardous air quality affecting much of Oregon is apparent (photo courtesy of Kurt Jensen)

By Saturday, a thick layer of smoke still hung over the Oregon Conference headquarters but the air was cool and still; the hot winds had abated and meteorologists promised that the changing weather would finally give firefighters a chance at turning the tide. Satellite heat signatures showed the fires in the northern part of the state had largely slowed their advance, though the ones closest still were 0% contained. On Sunday, forecasters announced that fires in Southern Oregon could be rekindled by strengthening winds.


For all those displaced at the encampment, the days have largely turned into a waiting game. Brenda Rider and her husband live in the town of Mulino, in a historic grist mill built in 1850 and now turned into a residence.

“The whole sky was red and pink,” Rider said, of when they had to evacuate. “It was more like something that looks like what you think hell looks like, with the color of red.”

Brenda Rider was still evacuated on Saturday, but optimistic that her home would survive.

At first, Rider and her husband left in a car with few possessions. The first night they had to sleep in the car. “That was misery,” Rider remembered. Later, they were able to slip back into the evacuated area and exchange the car for their motorhome, which they now have parked at the Oregon Conference site. So far, they think their historic home has been spared.

Chuck Burkeen is also optimistic that his home is still standing, though reports have put the fire 1/2 to 1 mile from the house. “But, it appears the fire crews have it stopped advancing,” he said.  Even so, it may be some time before they are able to go back.


Although a number of Oregon Conference properties have been threatened by the fires and are located in evacuation zones, initial reports indicate that all have survived. A small church in Mill City, where fire swept through, survived, Burkeen said.

At the headquarters, the Oregon Conference is preparing for the evacuations center to stay open for the foreseeable future.

“We’re at the place where we have organized command structure to be able to ride this as long as we need to,” said Jonathan Russell, Assistant to the President for Multimedia Communication, on Saturday. “It’s going to be days, for sure, and possibly a few weeks.”

The conference has been receiving guidance from the Red Cross, who praised their efforts and organization, Russell said. Local aid organizations and business have been helping to provide free meals.

A local shaved ice truck has been one of multiple local businesses offering free food to evacuees

“We’re committed to providing a place until we’re able to wind down this crisis situation, with our county partners,” Russell said.

The conference has received many donations of food and supplies, and now is asking for cash donations to meet specific needs, for which there is a specific wildfire fund. The Red Cross maintains a list of all available evacuation sites.


Title photograph courtesy of Kurt Jensen. 

Photographs by Alex Aamodt for Spectrum


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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10716
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Included in the recipe for disaster is decaying debris from fallen branches, dead trees, etc., as reported by many who live in the area. Clearing and DNR approved forestry management is lacking due to environmental laws. One must ask if any of the fires out west were begun because of human error or human intention.
My thankful prayers are for the location of Gladstone Park and praise God that this place has been protected to this day. I hope they are clearing the tinder that ignites like fuel and taking all precautions to avoid fires.


Sometimes when folks loose everything, they are more receptive to the gospel. But prevailing wisdom often says that it is the wrong time to share it with them as it giving the gospel in a time of crisis is taking advantage of their time of need.

Now that the judgments of God are falling on our nation, we need to do more.

What is the gospel, Henry?

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is the power of God unto salvation!

How is a person saved?

Only by the precious blood of Jesus!

So, being an Adventist and subscribing to their particular doctrines has nothing to do with salvation, right?

Truth is progressive. If being a Christian of another denomination is where a person is God can save them. But if God leads individuals to the new light of Adventism and if they reject it, they are rejecting Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their salvation. Likewise, if Adventists refuse to follow light when it comes to them, they like the Jews of old would be rejecting their high calling in favor of traditions that cannot save anyone.

Yes God can save non-Christians because they have followed all the light that they have had. Those people would have followed Jesus if they had known of Him. But we send missionaries to tell the world of Jesus because the majority of people will perish not knowing about Jesus.

All religions do not lead to God. And Jesus holds us accountable for the light we have and what we do with it. As body parts detached from the body are useless, we are to unite to make the Body of Christ efficient in taking the gospel to others.

Those who once claimed to be Adventist Christians and have severed themselves from the Body of Christ are in mortal danger. Those who are faithful Adventist Christians and who are cut from the Body of Christ by misguided leaders within the church are a witness against the Laodicean mindset that has infiltrated the Church.

Do not assume that Adventist’s particular doctrines are pure and undefiled. Some trash has crept into the Church since 1844. Some things that are taught from the pulpits are heresy. One example: Doug Bachelor teaches that the commandment THOU SHALT NOT KILL is a reference to MURDER. I heard him make the case for the commandment to be understood as THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT MURDER. But immediately after that commandment is given, Moses explains the necessity of cities of refuge where people could flee who had killed a neighbor by accident (NOT MURDER). There they must remain until the High Priest died. Should they leave the city of refuge they could forfeit their life (be killed as a punishment killing their neighbor).

The Scripture clearly teaches that the commandment is not THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT MURDER, but THOU SHALT NOT KILL as it is explained in context.

There are other errors that have crept into the Church that I will not try to clear up in this response to your question, BUT those who have difficulty discerning truth and error and who leave Adventism rather than to do their best to guide it back to its pure roots when they see errors being taught are not faithful to Christ’s commission to be the lights to the world.

I once heard my preacher say something heretical (though I do not remember the exact statement now). And I was appalled to hear amens arise from the congregation. I bowed my head in silent prayer and asked God “How long is this man going to teach error from this pulpit? Lord remove him and his false teachings!” As soon as I said amen! This false minister of Adventism stopped his sermon. “I am resigning as your pastor. I will have my letter of resignation in the conference office Monday morning.” And he sat down. After the closing song, a majority of the folks in church lingered in the lobby to comfort and console him and urge him to reconsider. He followed thru. Then the conference sent us another preacher cut from the same cloth. I prayed earnestly for him for a season. Then I told him that I had stopped praying for him, because I feared for his life. If God should answer my prayer for his reformation and he not reform, he might die. He had the biggest belly laugh and said, Pray for me anyways. Then the women’s prayer group started praying for him as well. “We love our pastor, but he is not feeding the majority of the church…” Before they said amen, their prayer group was interrupted. The pastor had just died instantly while on a mission trip. The women’s prayer group was devastated. “We wanted the Lord to send us a new pastor, but we did not want him to die.” The take away is this. God will answer prayer the way He see fit and if we see something that is not right, we need only take it to the Lord and let Him fix the problem in His own time and in His own way.

2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly [is] great, but the labourers [are] few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.
3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. (Luke 10:2-3)

From your response, Adventism does play a part in salvation. One example you state is that if some one leaves the SDA church, they are in “mortal danger”. Apparently the blood of Christ doesn’t cover these individuals, even though they are still Christians. Rejecting Adventism equals rejecting Jesus, according to your post.

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Jesus is the truth. If Adventism is the Church established by Jesus to guide people into all truth, then what is the difference between rejecting Jesus or rejecting His Church that brings people to Jesus?

If the Church is in error, is it the Church that Christ established or the folks who think that they have control of it?

“10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth [them] out of the church.
11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” 3 John (1:10-11).

The Adventist church doesn’t guide people into all truth. The Holy Spirit does that, and has been doing so for 2,000 years…without the SDA church. It is still happening today…without the SDA church.

Hebrews declares that Jesus is the final Word.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

I don’t believe, or think, that Jesus established the SDA church.


Apparently you’re lost Carol, but you can be comforted in the fact that the loving Jesus won’t torture you in hell forever. He’ll just torture you in hell till you expire. (Sarcasm)

Adventists have built up quite a myth over the years and are now in the process of culling people like you and I from the grace of God.

As for the church opening their conference headquarters to evacuees, good for them. It’s a huge bit of park like land in middle of urban sprawl with many RV hookup stations. It’s good to see humans cooperating regardless of differences to serve the common good. One has to wonder why we don’t see this level of service outside the scope of tragedy and natural disaster.


You think these fires are judgements from God?

Debris is a natural part of the forest life cycle. It feeds the ecosystem as it rots and returns to the earth as fertile soil.

I think it’s the exploding trees. Yea, they’re the real issue.

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I agree with you on that point about the Holy Spirit. The human language is not always a good way to communicate.

What are you saying is the purpose the Church that God has ordained?

By “the Church” are you referring to the SDA Church, and only the SDA Church?

Seven churches are listed in Revelation. The generic Church?

I addressed that thought in a youtube video in the 666 Mark of the Beast Tell-All show…Fires followed the Warning. It was a shortened commentary on "Great Balls of Fire coming soon (to a location near you ?), which was posted 2 June 2020 warning of the danger of fires that are about to come.

Having studied this question, I am convinced that God did establish the SDA Church and that Satan has hijacked it.